The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “description of excellent practice” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 32 - The description of excellent practice

The sages said:—

1. What is that excellent practice of holy rites, whereby salvation is directly acquired? O Māruta, it behoves you to explain it as well as its means.

Vāyu said:—

2. What is termed excellent practice is the great cult of Śiva wherein Śiva the bestower of salvation is directly perceived.

3. It is fivefold divided into five sections, holy rites, penance, japa, meditation and knowledge

4. The five activities along with attendant virtuous rites constitute the greatest Dharma. Thereby one attains the direct and indirect knowledge that bestows salvation.

5. The two Dharmas the higher and secondary are mentioned in the Vedas. In the matter of Dharma the Vedas constitute the final authority for us.

6. The higher dharma upto the practice of Yoga is mentioned in the Vedantic section of the Vedas. The secondary Dharma is mentioned in the Karmakāṇḍa section of the same.

7. The Ātmans freed from Pāśa are authorised in the higher Dharma and in the other one, every one is authorised.

8. This higher Dharma is the means for achieving the greatest virtue of Śiva. It shall be supplemented in all parts by Dhasmaśāstras and other holy treatises.

9. The greatest Dharma of Śiva termed the excellent practice is explained in the Itihāsas and the Purāṇas.

10. In the Śaiva Āgamas a detailed explanation of every thing including the consecratory rites is given.

11. The Śaiva Āgama is of two varieties: Śrauta and Aśrauta. The Śrauta consists of condensed Vedic texts; the other one consists of independent texts but well consecrated.

12. The independent texts were originally ten but supplemented subsequently by eight more so as to constitute eighteen texts. They are called Kāmika etc., and the entire literature is called “Śaiva Siddhānta

13. The Śrauta literature consists of a billion verses. In it the Pāśupata Vraía and Jñāna are explained.

14. In every circle of Yugas, Śiva incarnates as Yogācārya in different places and propagates yoga.

15. The four great sages Ruru, Dadhīca, Agastya and the renowned Upamanyu have condensed these principles and propagated them.

16. They are all Pāśupatas and exponents of the Saṃhitās. Hundreds and thousands of their descendants have been the preceptors of their principles.

17. The great virtue of Śiva mentioned before is four-fold with regular performance and observance as the basic Atman for them. Among them the Pāśupata yoga facilitates the direct perception of Siva.

18. Hence the excellent practice is this Pāśupata Yoga. The mode of it as practised by Brahmā shall now be mentioned.

19. This is Nāmāṣṭakayoga prescribed by Śiva himself. By means of this Yoga the discernment of Śiva is generated.

20. Through this discernment the stable and perfect knowledge is attained ere long. Śiva is delighted with him whose knowledge is well-founded.

21. Thanks to his grace the great Yoga is attained which facilitates the direct perception of Śiva. By perceiving Śiva directly the cause of worldly existence is quelled.

22. Then the devotee is liberated from worldly existence and being liberated he becomes identical with Śiva. The means mentioned by Brahmā is now separately mentioned here.

23-24. Śiva, Maheśvara, Rudra, Viṣṇu, Pitāmaha, Samsāravaidya, Sarvajña and Paramātman—these eight names mainly indicate Śiva. The first five are the names of the deities presiding over the Kalās, Śāntyatīta etc.[1]

25 28. The five names of Sadāśiva originate from the conditioning factors. When the conditioning factors cease to exist they too recede. The region is eternal and the Ātmans who occupy them are non-eternal. When the Padas are changed the Padins are released. In another evolution they attain the same region. But the first five Ātmans undergo the change of names. The last three names are due to the adoption of the three conditioning factors. They indicate only Śiva.

29-30. He who is naturally pure is called Śiva. He has the antecedent non-existence of the contact of the primordial dirt. Or, he who is full of good attributes and is Īśvara is called Śiva by good men who propound the Śaivite principles.

31-35. The name Maheśvara is explained thus: Prakṛti is greater than the twenty-three principles. Puruṣa the twenty fifth principle is greater than Prakṛti.[2] Puruṣa is Praṇava the first Svara in the Vedas. Since his real nature is comprehensible only through the Vedas he is established in the Vedānta. He who is beyond this Puruṣa, who is associated with Prakṛti is Maheśvara because both the Prakṛti and Puruṣa function in subservience to him. Or, Maheśvara is the wielder of Māyā. Māyā is Prakṛti the principle with the three Guṇas. It is unchanging. He who makes this Māyā energetic is Maheśvara. He is glorified as Kālātman, Paramātman, the primordial, the gross and the subtle.

36. The explanation of the word Rudra:—‘Rud’ means misery and ‘Drāvayati’ means ‘routs’. Since the lord quells our misery he is called Rudra.[3] He is Śiva, the great cause.

37. Śiva pervades all living beings, the principles and elements. He is wakefully present in the bodies and presides over them. Hence he is called Viṣṇu.

38. Śiva is the progenitor of the souls that have attained the status of fathers. He is therefore called the grandfather.

39-40. Śiva is called the physician of the universe. Just as the physician who is conversant with the pathology diagnoses and cures the ailment with medicines so also the lord annihilates the worldly existence along with its roots. He is so called by all those who understand the nature of principles.

41-43. Even when they have the sense-organs for comprehending the ten objects of sensual perception, the atoms do not know the beings gross and subtle, present in the three periods of time, in their entirety because they are hidden by the particles of dirt in the form of Māyā, whereas Sadāśiva has not these causes of perception. Even when they are not present, he knows without any strain every object as it is. Hence, he is Sarvajña (omniscient).

44. Śiva is the Ātman of all. He perpetually possesses all these qualities. There is no greater Ātman than Śiva. Śiva is Paramātman.

45-47. By the grace of the preceptor the eight names shall be acquired. The knots of the Kalā, Nivṛtti and others shall be cut off with the five names of Śiva and purified by repetitions, strokes and non-restraints. By means of the Suṣumṇā, the Puryaṣṭaka alone with the chest, neck, palate, middle of the eyebrows and the hole on the top of the head, shall be cut off.

48-49. The Ātman shall be taken above to the splendour of Śiva beyond the moon stationed in the twelve-petal led lotus of the heart. The mouth is shrunk in size. The body is drenched with the shower of the nectar of the Śakti and merged in their reasons. The Ātman is then let down into the heart.

50-52. The devotee then meditates on the great god Śiva, favourably disposed to his devotees who is conceived as sitting in the white twelve-petalled lotus beyond the moon, who in the sweet crystal-pure, delighted, cool, lustrous form of Ardhanārīśvara, shall be meditated upon. The devotee shall have the mind in normal state. He shall then worship the lord with the eight names of Śiva and the sacred flowers.

53. At the end of the worship the devotee shall perform Prāṇāyāma and concentrate the mind well. He shall perform the japa of the eight names of Śiva.

54-56. He shall perform eight Āhutis in the navel and repeat “Namaḥ” alone with the Pūrṇāhūti, offering eight flowers and conclude worship. With a palmful of water he shall dedicate his Ātman. By doing this, ere long, the auspicious knowledge of Pāśupata cult is obtained. He acquires its magnificent status and the excellent conduct. Then securing the great Yoga he is liberated. There is no doubt in this.

Footnotes and references:


The twenty-two versrs (23-44) of this chapter are the same as the verses 1-22 of Kailāsa-saṃhitā chapter 9.


See P. 1072 note.


For another interpretation, see Vāyavīa-saṃhitā chapter 12 verse 29.